NORMAN — It’s just the middle of December, but figuring out just how deep Oklahoma’s roster can be is a goal in the last three weeks before Big 12 Conference play begins.
The reason why flashed in last Saturday’s 101-91 victory over Tulsa. The Sooners played the majority of the game without sophomore forward Ryan Spangler due to a calf injury. Despite not having its best rebounder and top low-post scoring threat, they pulled away with a second-half run.
“I thought the other guys stepped in there and did a really good job opening the second half in the fashion you have to,” Kruger said.
The Sooners made the move because Tyler Neal came off the bench to score 12 points and pull down eight rebounds, despite having to play more in the post than he’s used to. It also picked up eight rebounds from forward Cameron Clark. D.J. Bennett put up five points and three rebounds.
“I thought D.J. and Tyler did a terrific job. They stepped in there. D.J. scores the opening bucket of the second half right out of the locker room. That was a key to pick him up a little,” Kruger said.
The ability to adapt the roster to nightly needs is essential for the long haul. Different challenges come up in each game. The next one comes when OU (9-1) faces Texas-Arlington (4-6) at 7 p.m. today at Lloyd Noble Center.
Kruger said Spangler will play today. The calf injury isn’t severe and he might have played in the second half against Tulsa if the Sooners had really needed him.
But OU is already shorthanded due to sophomore guard Je’lon Hornbeak’s broken foot.
Kruger used different player combinations because of it. Freshman guard Frank Booker was the first player off the bench and using Neal at the center spot was something new too.
These non-conference games provide the opportunity to experiment. The Sooners are expected to fully recover from their injury bug by late January. But dealing with foul trouble is something they have to plan for. There were 52 called in the Tulsa game. Officials have not relented on the NCAA’s edict to make the game more free flowing. If that means calling every touch, then so be it.
Teams have to be able to adapt their lineup accordingly.
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